The Patriots are in an unfamiliar position, sitting at a record of 2-4 seven weeks into the season. After suffering a 33-6 loss at home against Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, New England finds itself two games back in the loss column of the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills. The Patriots have a tough schedule ahead of them, starting with a road trip to upstate New York on Sunday to take on the Bills, in what could very well dictate how the rest of New England’s season goes.
If the Patriots lose to the Bills on Sunday, putting them at a 2-5 record at the halfway point of the season, it will be time for the team to consider trading away players to recoup draft assets for next year and beyond.
One player in particular comes to mind when thinking of which player on the New England roster could net a strong return in a trade.
Stephon Gilmore, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, has one year remaining on the free agent deal he signed with the Patriots back in 2017, and after restructuring his contract this summer– in which he received a $5 million pay raise this season– Gilmore carries a $17.1 million cap hit in 2021.
If New England decides to punt on this season and acquire draft picks to build for the future, trading Gilmore would bring back the greatest return out of any player on the roster.
The Patriots have reportedly already floated Gilmore’s name in trade talks multiple times, dating back to the offseason, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB.
Why trade Stephon Gilmore?
Why would any team decide to trade away its best defensive player who still has a year left on his contract?
If the team gets the sense that Gilmore is going to want a new contract after this season, and doesn’t think that giving a big contract to a cornerback who will be 31 years old at the start of that next contract is a smart investment, it would make sense to gauge Gilmore’s value on the trade market.
The speculation about Gilmore wanting a new contract is bolstered by the team essentially giving Gilmore a cash advance on this season after Gilmore was “excused” for a couple of days of practice, which coincidentally came right around the time Bills star cornerback Tre’Davious White signed a new four-year, $70 million contract with Buffalo.
If Gilmore wanted a pay raise this season, it’s very likely that he will want more money next season too, which could lead to a possible holdout. New England may decide Gilmore is not worth the hassle of dealing with a holdout next offseason, which could lead to a trade of the cornerstone of the New England defense.
Bill Belichick is one of the best in the business when it comes to evaluating players based on future production, and not past performance. In the case of Gilmore, it’s very possible that last year’s performance was the peak of his career. This season, Gilmore has allowed a passer rating of 100.9, which is fourth-worst among NFL cornerbacks who have played 50 percent of snaps or more. If Gilmore wants more money in 2021 and beyond, he may have a difficult time getting it in New England.
Where could Gilmore go, and for what?
What could trading Gilmore get New England in return? According to Breer, the Patriots would have a tough time getting higher than a second round pick in return for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, on account of his age.
Where could Gilmore land? The Tennessee Titans are a team with playoff hopes and just enough remaining cap space in 2020 to fit in Gilmore’s contract for 2020, as he has around $7 million left in 2020 money, and the Titans have $7.5 million in cap space for the remainder of 2020.
The Arizona Cardinals are a team in the thick of a crowded NFC West divisional race that features lethal passing attacks in Seattle and Los Angeles. Adding Gilmore to a secondary featuring Patrick Peterson and Byron Murphy Jr. would be a big boost for a young Cardinals team down the stretch. However, Arizona has $6.5 million in cap space left in 2020, and would likely need to send back some salary to New England, or make a separate move, to facilitate a trade.
Both teams have second round picks to offer in return for Gilmore.
Sunday’s matchup in Orchard Park looms large, in the meantime. With the NFL trade deadline not coming until November 3 (you couldn’t pick literally any other day than this one, NFL?), the team can take this week to self-evaluate and determine if the playoffs are still an attainable goal this season, after Sunday’s divisional battle.
A loss on Sunday could spell the end of Gilmore’s time as a Patriot, and New England would be wise to explore a trade of the talented cornerback in order to build a better team for the future.
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